You’ve probably heard that community colleges have seen considerable growth over the last couple of years – driven by a down economy with unemployed workers reskilling for future employment. According to a 2009 Washington Post article, community colleges get as much as 60% of their budgets from state and local legislatures. With tax revenues down, there’s increased pressure on schools to get needed funding to pay for the growth in student enrollment.

So what are colleges doing to help pay for the increased demand? Most are getting federal assistance to help. Other very progressive and innovative schools are targeting the corporate training market to generate revenues to supplement their operational budgets. In the U.S., we estimate the 2010 corporate training market to be greater than $100 billion – a big target for colleges to supplement their budgets.

As many as 100 of the more than 1200 community colleges in the U.S. have already created a dedicated corporate services organization focused on providing workforce development programs to corporate clients.

Sounds logical, right? Unfortunately success does not come easy for colleges in the highly competitive corporate market. Community colleges are not traditionally well suited to compete in this space because they’re academically oriented and not very savvy in closing business deals. They’re much more adept at selling course registrations than responding to RFP’s and writing master services agreements.

Their challenge is to learn how to sell themselves to business executives and training managers – more importantly, how to structure a deal that’s more about services than “buts in seats.” But the biggest challenge these colleges will face will be to learn how to deliver the quality of service corporations require – expectations of quality in corporate training is much higher than what the individual student taking community college courses demands. I recognize this is not what anyone likes to hear, but in my opinion very true.

Schools which have been successful (e.g. Delta College, Valencia Community College, Fox Valley Technical College, Cuyahoga Community College, and a host of others) recognized they couldn’t be successful by lackidaisically going after the market. They had to make a concerted effort by creating a dedicated team, staffed by experienced professionals who had experience in doing business in the corporate training market. They had to learn how to deliver custom services such as content development, training administration, and virtual delivery.

Will we see more successes in the future? And more colleges entering the market? Well I’m bullish on their chances. We’ve already seen quite a number of them make the transition to business services. And the bigger the opportunity, meaning revenues, the more schools will enter the market.

As always, I welcome your comments. Or feel free to send me a note at